By Drew Langsner

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I first learned about Scandinavian bowl carving in 1977, when Swedish woodworker and teacher Willc Sundqvist visited our farmstead in the mountains of western North Carolina. Sundqvist grew up in rural Sweden, in an era when traditional woodworking was still a common activity. During the dark winter months when there wasn't much to do, Swedish craftsmen carved bowls for many purposes. In the kitchen, various bowls were used for cheesemak-ing, mixing and serving food. In the barn, large carved troughs served as feeders for the livestock. And on special occasions such as weddings and funerals, ornate bowls commonly shaped like large geese were used for serving homemade beer.

The bowls shown here are patterned after a traditional Scandinavian design and are sometimes called "dough troughs." Although you could mix bread or biscuit dough in them if you wanted to, they're more likely to be used as decorative serving vessels for salads, baked goods, fruit, or just for display.

I make my bowls straight from the tree by splitting a log and hollowing each half. Except for the chain saw 1 use to cut logs to length, I work entirely with hand tools.

Caning a bowl with hand tools is different than many other woodworking projects in that you don't work from a plan with set dimensions and a standard for the finished product. There are no square angles or perfect thicknesses, and there is only one flat plane—the bottom of the bowl. The final shape develops from the way the wood "works" and your perception of the form as you progress. Therefore, it's important to evaluate what you're doing throughout the project.

Author u«e *» an adze, hatchet. spoke-shave and u variety of gouge* to make hi* howls.

Choosing the Wood

Most of my bowls, including the two shown on page 49. an* carved from yellow poplar (also known as tulip), though I've also used horse chestnut (buckeye) and willow. In Scandinavia the most common bowl-carving woods are paper birch and aspen. Whatever your choice, if the wood will be in direct contact with fcx>d, it mast liave a fine-textured grain stmcture and should not have anv noticcablc taste or odor.

I prefer to use green wood, since it is far easier and more pleasurable to work by hand dian dry wood. Also, dry wood often contains checks and splits when it is seasoned in large chunks. A cull log (one that will not producc quality sawn timber) is often fine for carving bowls.

Getting Started

My bowls are about 7 to 12 in. wide, so I start with a log section about 8 to 13 in. dia. that has the clear wood needed for bowls. It's a good idea to saw the blanks a few inches longer than the intended bowl, leaving room for some trimming or extended handles at the ends.

The next step is to split the log through the pith at the center of the growth rings. I take some time to determine exactly what line to take through the pith, since I want to avoid defects like knots and hopefully producc two symmetrical pieces. Then I split the log with a single-blade ax and a heavy wooden club. (See photo, right.)

Most large carved bowls are formed with the bowl bottom tangent to the outer growdi rings and die rim close to the split through the center. (See Fig. 1.) However, you can also make what I call an "upside-down" bowl, in which the bottom is loeated just beyond the pith and the rim basically follows the

with a hewing hatchet and hand plane. Then, I hew and plane the top of the blank to remove at least x/i in.

outer growth rings of the log. This bowl has much more prominent grain pattern but a much narrower profile. For a first bowl, I recommend the standard configuration, with the rim near the ccntcr of the log.

Flattening the Blank

Once the log has been split, I flatten the bottom of the bowl blank with a hewing hatchet and hand plane. Then, I hew and plane the top of the blank to remove at least x/i in.

Author *plit* a log with a ningle-hlade ax to produee the rough blank* for a howl.
When flattening the hot*I hiauk, tilt the workpiece *o you're rutting vertically and keep out of the path of the hatehet.

Author draws the rough outline of the bowl along the top and sides of the blank.

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